On January 18, 2016, the House of Commons debated a petition signed by 570,000 Britons asking that Donald Trump be barred from entering the UK for saying that Muslims should be temporarily excluded from entering the United States.

Actually, America’s no-fly list is alive and well under the Obama administration. A British Muslim family was forbidden from entering the US before Christmas by Homeland Security.

In the end, parliamentarians concluded:

There will be no direct action as a result of the debate and there was no vote on the issue, but MPs agreed they ‘duly considered’ the petition.

That same day, another Muslim-related controversy arose. Prime Minister David Cameron urged Muslim women born overseas to learn English. A £20m language fund is being established for this purpose in England in an effort not only to help these ladies but also to reduce the possibility of extremism. Not being able to speak the local language can result in social isolation and may lead to discrimination.

Elsewhere in the UK — Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — the Daily Mail tells us:

Muslim women in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be liable to deportation if they fail to improve their language skills, but will not benefit from the new financial support for courses unless the devolved administrations decide to follow Mr Cameron’s lead.

With regard to the level of proficiency required, the Daily Mail article states:

Asked about the threat of deportation, Mr Cameron said: “What we’ve said is that if people come here on a spousal visa, to be a husband or a wife, we’ve now said they have to learn English in order to get that visa.

“But after two-and-a-half years, halfway through the programme of getting settlement, they should be improving their English, and if they don’t do that then they can’t be guaranteed to be able to go to the full stage and retain their visa.”

Women arriving in the UK under a spousal visa are currently expected to have English skills at the internationally-recognised A1 beginner level – roughly equivalent to a native-born child starting primary school.

Under the PM’s proposal, the women would be expected to have reached the A2 – elementary – level after two-and-a-half years, and B1 – intermediate – after five years.

However, many Muslim spokespeople and prominent Labour Party MPs accused the Prime Minister of ‘stigmatising’ and ‘demonising’ Muslim women.

Julia Hartley-Brewer wrote a good analysis of the situation for The Telegraph. Excerpts follow:

two guests on the BBC’s flagship Radio 4 show … helpfully informed the nation that the Prime Minister is not allowed to talk about issues concerning Muslim women …

It turns out that since Mr Cameron is white, Christian and – worst of all – in possession of a Y chromosome, he is simply not qualified or entitled to talk about people who aren’t any of those things …

Cue the Today’s programme and their two angry guests this morning.

First Zubeda Limbada, of the Connect Justice charity, which tackles extremism and radicalisation, insisted the Prime Minister was wrong to target Muslim women.

“I feel that this isn’t just a Muslim women issue. It affects all of us,” she told the nation. Well, not all of us, actually, Zubeda. Most of us already speak the native language and while there are of course Poles, Romanians and others who live and work here without speaking a word of English, their children are not heading off to joining jihadist death cults in their hundreds, so I’m afraid their lack of integration is not a top priority quite yet.

The other Anjum Anwar, of Women’s Voices, also objected:

calling Mr Cameron’s comments both “unacceptable” and “extremely unhelpful”. She felt “demonised” and, what’s worse, it was “being done so blatantly”.

Yet, here’s the irony:

It was wrong for Mr Cameron to call for more Muslim women to learn English despite the fact that, Ms Anwar informed us, her own immigrant mother had advised her that her education was vital[,] got her empowerment and … Ms Anwar herself had personally helped organise Muslim women’s language classes in mosques.

The Conservative government’s plan is to appoint:

Louise Casey, the Director General of the Government’s Troubled Families unit, to lead “a comprehensive review into boosting opportunity and integration to bring Britain together as one nation” …

Ms Casey is expected to set out the framework for a new ‘Cohesive Communities Programme’, which will “improve integration and extend opportunity” among Muslims.

Ultimately:

A Government source said: “David knows that the traditional submissiveness of Muslim women is a sensitive issue, but the problems of young people being attracted by extremism will not be tackled without an element of cultural change within the community.

“At the moment, too many Muslim women are treated like second-class citizens who may speak only basic English at best, and have no jobs or independent financial standing. It means they are in no position to speak out against the influence of the radical Imams, however strongly they feel about it”.

However, the Government is attempting to change intransigent social mores which have existed for over a millennia. It is unlikely, therefore, that a woman who must submit to her husband or, in his absence, another male seen to be the putative head of the household, will not soon be challenging him — or an imam.

It’s a bold move on Cameron’s part, but I do not see things changing in that area any time soon.

That said, one can only hope that women who need to improve their English language skills are given permission to do so from the men in their family.

In another crucial area of English-language gaps, doctors — and now nurses as well as midwives — who wish to practise in the UK must be able to speak the language well enough to ensure safety.

Since the requirement for doctors came into effect 18 months ago, four out of ten physicians applying to work in the UK have not met the necessary standard of English.

Those living overseas might wonder why Britain would need to import medical staff. However, a Daily Mail article from 2014 states that for the £70,000 it costs to train a British nurse, for example, the NHS can hire three foreign nurses, each of whom would earn a salary of £23,000 per annum.

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